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Max tried to breathe through the heavy feeling that settled in his chest as Sage smiled up at him. "I still can't believe we're getting married tomorrow," she said with a happy smile.
"Aren't you nervous at all?" Max asked.
"Why should I be nervous?" she asked with a giggle.
"Seems like you invited a lot of people. On top of that, it's all over the press. Do you think the Paparazzi will stay away?" he asked.
"I doubt it, but we have a good security plan. Don't worry, Max. I've been dealing with this stuff since I was a kid," Sage assured him.
"Yeah, you're right. I'm sure everything will be fine," he agreed with a smile that felt forced. Maybe if he spent the night telling himself that everything would be fine, he would start to believe it by morning. In less than twenty-four hours, he was to be the groom in what was being hailed as "the wedding of the year" among Hollywood's elite.
Academy Award-winning actress Sage Davenport had started dating him less than a year ago. From the moment of their first public appearance together, he had been swept up in a whirlwind of glamor and high profile public appearances that boggled his mind and helped him to move on with his life in a big way.
When he wasn't following in Sage's shadow, he was managing the rapid changes in his business. In the last two and a half years, his net worth had multiplied several times over. His workforce had more than doubled, and his web development company was now a national name. His life was so filled with change and new friends and acquaintances, he'd hardly had time to dwell on Andie too much.
Why then did her face keep popping up in his head tonight? On the eve of his wedding to the most beautiful woman in the world? It made no sense and it irritated him, but he was determined to shake the negativity of his thoughts. Dwelling on Andie was a lost cause, and he knew that.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Sage said as she gave him one last lingering kiss and slipped into the car waiting at the curb.
"I wish I didn't have to work tonight, but I have to get a few things cleared up before tomorrow. That way I don't have any distractions during the honeymoon," he said.
She blew him a pretty kiss and he shut the door with a smile. He then watched as her driver merged into traffic.
By the time he made it to his desk, there were ten new messages on his phone. He was in the middle of checking them when his newest personal assistant knocked on his door.
"Sir, you have a visitor," Henry said with a frown.
"I don't have time for visitors," Max barked.
Henry gulped down a breath and said, "It's your ex-wife and her attorney."
Max's body went cold as he said, "Tell her to fuck off."
He hadn't seen or heard from Maren since the day their divorce was finalized more than two years ago. He had no doubt she was only here to cause trouble because she had seen the news of his impending wedding.
When Henry didn't immediately vacate his office to deliver his message to Maren, he stood up and demanded, "What?"
"I'm sorry, Sir, it's just that she was very insistent on seeing you tonight. She says you owe her five million dollars, and she says she has a message from someone named Andie."
Andie's name was like a gut punch that rocketed straight through him. He barely maintained his composure as he said, "Show them in."
There was no time to school his features into a nonchalant look, or even come up with a rudimentary game plan for this meeting. Before Max could sit down, Maren and her lawyer were being ushered into his office by a very hesitant Henry.
When Henry lingered at the door, unsure of where he should go, Max said, "You can close the door on your way out, Henry."
Henry sagged in relief as he exited the room.
Max sat down behind his desk and took in the smug look on Maren's face. She knew she had him by the balls this time, and he cursed himself for ever making that desperate agreement with her. He had been heartbroken at the time, and Maren had capitalized on it.
"Mr. Clarke," her lawyer began in a self-righteous tone that made Max's fist itch to connect with his face. "As per your written agreement with my client, we are here to collect the five million dollars you promised in return for proof that she tell Miss Andrea Dixon-Jones what you call 'the truth' about the paternity of my client's child and your reasons for divorcing."
"What proof do you have?" Max asked quietly.
He doubted they had found her. He had spent more than a year hiring private investigators to track her down, and he'd had no luck. Andie had disappeared so thoroughly, he had sometimes wondered if she were dead. Giving up on the search for her had been one of the most painful decisions he'd ever made.
Adrienne D'nelle Ruvalcaba is from Southeast Texas. After high school, she joined the U.S. Army and served four years at Fort Campbell, KY. Following her army days, and one failed attempt at marriage, she and her two children relocated so she could enroll in the Engineering program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. While there, she completed her Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural analysis. Also while at SIU, she was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This diagnosis significantly changed her life.
Since the onset of SLE, she has learned a lot about those close to her and even more about herself. After a few years of struggling to accept Lupus as part of her life, she has come to a more peaceful place and no longer lets her disease define who she is.
Adrienne has a love of writing that dates back to grade school, and she often takes solace in the many worlds she creates in her imagination. She writes women's fiction and romance, and her books are meant purely for emotional fulfillment, enjoyment, and sweet escapism. Real life is difficult enough, and she believes we all need a little break from it sometimes.